First Empty, Then Fill
A Sales Manager visited a Zen Master, seeking help to improve his skills. The Master listened to him; then asked one of his disciples to fetch tea for the visitor. A pot of tea and two cups on a tray, were placed before the Master. Looking intently at the Sales Manager, the Zen Master poured tea into one of the cups. He poured and continued to pour until the cup was full and tea spilled over. The Manager drew the attention of the Master to the tea spilling over; but the Master would not stop. Soon the pot was empty and there was much tea on the tray; the cup was brimming. The Master spoke with compassion: "My son, your mind is like this cup which is full of tea. It can hold no more. Empty your mind and become like this second empty cup. Then come back and I will fill it for you."
In some ways, we parents are like the Sales Manager. We think we know; we believe we have the right parenting skills.
More often than not, we have to unlearn and relearn; empty
and then fill.
Parenting Highs by Rudolph Lambert
At dinner, my wife Lissy and I, usually play a game that keeps the children happily engaged. Sometimes, it is guessing a favourite movie, at other times it is guessing the name of an animal. The other night, Lissy popped the question – what gives you, what will give you the greatest joy? All of us had a shot at answering: “Being with the family”, “seeing everyone’s smiling face”….When it came to our 8-year old son, Augustus, he said, literally jumping in his chair and beaming from ear to ear: “Being able to see God face to face!”
Lissy and I were stunned into silence, bathed in an incandescence that we were not used to. The purity and spontaneity with which those words came bubbling from his lips, was more than we could handle. The certainty with which he said it put him on par with the angels. For us, the shock was especially so, because we have seen him ogle at the might of dinosaurs, gape at gigantic robots, marvel at toys with gadgets and more than relish a delicious meal. We had imagined his eyes would be turned elsewhere. The poverty of our image of him!
It was clear to us that minute, how blessed we were to have innocence walk among us. Our hearts flooded with joy at the thought of our little son drawing his happiness from the highest source, drawing his water from the deepest well. We can only pray on bended knee that God gives us the grace and the faith to aspire to that state. We pray that our son will hold fast to this desire as he grows into adolescence and later adulthood, when other “joys” will bid for his attention. We hope that he will see them for the imposters they are and cling to this joy of joys as long as he lives. We also pray that his little sister 4-year old Ramona, will learn from him the simplicity of hungering only for the Bread of life and thirsting only for the Living water.
A twelve year old girl was to write an essay on a Missionary she knew. Mother Teresa came to her mind, but she could not go beyond the missionary's name because she knew very little of her life. She kept looking, but found none until it occurred to her that there was one at home - her mother. So she decided to write on her mother. Thoughts flooded her mind. Then putting pen to paper, she let those thoughts flow. Her mother was not selfish, she stressed. Never did she put herself before her family. Her mother took great care of her in health and illness. What really stood out was her never ending love, expressed in so many ways. She would not say an unkind word or act rudely. Gently she corrected her daughter, when she had to. She did not rush off to parties and friends, but was always 'there' for her and her father. Her spirit of sacrifice was amazing. Her life was a lesson. Truly, she concluded, she was lucky to have a missionary mother.
Without doubt this mother gained a place in her daughter's heart because of her shining example, right instructions and gentle corrections.
The Straits Times, Singapore, of March 02, 2009, reported two
case of parents demonstrating 'tough love'. The father of a glue-
sniffing 14 year old daughter, after repeated failed attempts to
mend her ways, called in the Police. The daughter cursed, but
soon found helping hands getting her back to health. In the
second case, the father of a 16 year old girl (who kept losing weight rapidly - 12 kgs. in 3 months) had to rush her to hospital,
despite violent protests. She was diagnosed as having Anorexia
Nervosa. Untreated, her life would have been in danger. The girl, now 20, is grateful to her father for acting wisely, despite her angry and foul resistance.
A father’s way of saying “I Love You”
In his autobiography, Original Sin, Hollywood superstar, the late Antony Quinn recounts an experience when he was 9. Antony sees his sister Stella (6) being dragged to a tunnel by a man who then fondles her. Quickly he runs home and fetches a hatchet. With the back of the hatchet, he hits the man on his head, over and over again until the man falls over, bleeding profusely. The man is taken to hospital, half dead. That night his father calls Antony outside the house and commends his brave act. But, pulling out his belt, he adds that he is going to whip the boy anyway. Antony is puzzled. His father explains: the first time you hit the man was to save your sister; that was great. The second time, was out of indignation; that was fine. But when you struck him for the third and fourth time, you showed that you have the instinct to kill; you could become a murderer. Remember this night and never again lose your temper so badly as to want to kill. Like a man, Antony took the whipping.
Money Power ?
Some years ago the Indian Newspapers carried the story of a rich kid recklessly driving his new imported car (a gift from his super-rich dad) over sleeping pavement-dwellers, killing some. His blood spattered factory-fresh car tyres painted red designs on the road as he sped off. In time the kid was booked. With prison walls for company, he puzzled over what went wrong. With his father's enormous wealth and top-level connections, he should not be there. After all, what were the lives of a few pavement-dwellers? How much were they worth? He grew up exulting in the power of his father's wealth; what it meant in a money-crazed society. Others mattered only if they were in his bracket. His parents who indulged him in every way, agonized over this dip in their otherwise upward looking graph. They would not blame themselves or their son. The fault lay, they argued, with the pavement-dwellers who slept on the pavement, when their son drove past. A wise man remarked: "He who has no money is poor; but he who has nothing but money is the poorest of all".
Caring for others – A lesson
On January 26, 2001, an earthquake of devastating proportions struck Gujarat, India. Responding to the crisis, Sister Marian, the Headmistress of St. Ursula's School, Chennai, India, appealed to her students to bring in what they could, for dispatch to Gujarat. But she did not ask for any help from 50 children who were huddled in one room, slightly removed from the main building. These children, drawn from the slums, were persuaded to get some schooling, with the incentive of food from the school. One day, a little girl from this group, gave Sister Marian some money, which they had put together. Since Sister knew that the little girl came from a desperately poor family, she asked the child if she also contributed. The girl nodded, and added that her mother did not have any money to give, so she decided to starve for a day to send the small money, so saved, to Gujarat.
How can we fittingly praise the mother in rags who etched into her daughter's memory a lesson in caring for others?
A mother nurtures
Jane, an accomplished dancer, was getting married. At her wedding reception, her mother, now a widow, spoke of the time
Jane learned to dance on her father's feet. In her reply, Jane agreed with her mother but added that while she learned to dance on her father's feet, she learned to dance through life, on her mother's feet. Nurturing her daughter through timely and prudent instructions came naturally to the mother.
A mother’s example
A little boy returned from school one evening and gave his mother a letter from his teacher. She read it and wept. Briefly, the letter stated that her son was difficult to teach (rather slow) and therefore to be kept out of school. What was she to do? Go to the school and plead with them? Send him to another school? Get him a tutor at home, whom she would be hard-pressed to pay? The more she thought of her options, she dismissed them. By morning she decided to become his tutor. She would teach her son, the slow learner, who was rejected by his school. For years, with great skill and angelic patience she taught him. From halting steps, to firms steps, to rapid strides, he became sure-footed. In later years, even with many inventions to his credit, he fondly remembered his mother, who taught him the fundamentals. The boy went by the name Thomas Alva Edison.
What has this mother to teach us? At least two lessons:
1)That a mother's love has no limits; that she will take up tasks for her child that seem impossible to others; and that she would consider it well worthwhile. St. Augustine's words give her act of love a new meaning: "Where there is love, there is no labour; or, if there is labour, that labour is loved".
2)That a plucky mother, accepting the challenge, would doggedly pursue her goal to set her son on the road to success.
Learning from the mother's example, Edison, in later years would say: "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward". Certainly he had his mother to thank for his robust optimism.
What price – A mother’s love ?
It is reported that an American mother allowed her forehead to be used for an advertisement. An indelible print of the advertisement appeared on her forehead. Why did she do that?
So that she could collect a little over $10,000 for her son's schooling. Imagine her plight as she woke each morning and looked at herself in the mirror! Mocking her, from the mirror would be the advertisement. Think of the amused looks she got from her neighbours, who turned away to hide a perplexed smile, as she walked down her street! She could not hide her shame under fancy head gear or a changed hair style, because she was paid to keep her forehead exposed. She would have to live through those terrible experiences, day after day, right through her life; all because of love for her son. Perhaps she understood the line from St.Augustine:"The measure of love is to love without measure".
Unloved, they died.
In the 18th.century,the enlightened despot, Fredrick the Great, King of Prussia, had an interesting idea. He wondered what would happen if he put 100 babies from different countries in one space and raise them in exactly the same conditions ? In particular, he was curious to know if the children would evolve an universal language among themselves, if nobody spoke to them and avoided any contact with them. As King, he proceeded with his experiment in a large room, providing the children with rich food, expensive clothes and all that they needed to be in comfort. The children were not in want of things; but they were wanting in human contact, because the King was very definite in his purpose - no one would talk, touch or show any tenderness to them. He waited, rather impatiently, for the children to evolve the universal language. For the time the children lived in the large room, they showed no curiosity or enthusiasm. At the end of one year, all the 100 children were dead.
(Adapted version of a story in the book `9 Journeys Home' by